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Peace is the only option

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(Joint statement of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace [IRSMP] and Peace Advocates Zamboanga [PAZ] on  the current security crisis in Mindanao particularly the ZAMBASULTA region, which imperils the peace negotiation between the Philippine Government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front [MILF]).

THE 19 Army soldiers killed in action in Al-Barka, Basilan last October 18, the ambush slaying of six civilian members of an agrarian cooperative in Tumahubong, Basilan last October 23 and other hostilities that have resulted in the death of over 30 soldiers and civilians and wounding of scores of others since then have once again caused a serious security crisis in the ZAMBASULTA region and Mindanao.  The understandable emotional outcries these have generated in the call for justice for the victims and the blame placed by some on the ceasefire and peace negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are threatening the long-sought after political settlement of the Bangsamoro Question.

That this fresh outbreak of violence that directly threatens the entire peace process has once again taken place in Basilan serves but to crystallize the security and socio-economic development issues afflicting Mindanao.  Because they are much more acute and persistent in the island province, Basilan is the frequent fuse to cyclical, wider hostilities.  The central issue and reason behind the chronic security problem in Basilan is in its “failed state” situation of governance.  In this province, local government units and lead government agencies do not deliver basic services to residents, deepening their poverty and driving criminality, terrorism and insurgency.   Ideological and criminal movements are further fueled by the grinding misery of the population.

Amid the ongoing crisis, we applaud and support the stance of President Aquino to keep and sustain the peace negotiation with the MILF: PEACE IS THE ONLY OPTION to resolve the 40-year war in Mindanao.   We further support the declaration of “all-out justice” response of the President to catch, punish or neutralize those responsible for the killing and wounding of soldiers and civilians, whether they are valid rebels, lost commands or bandits. 

We also urge:
-    Warmongers among them politicians and other leaders and down to plain individuals to desist from calling for an “all-out war” and stoking anger and confusion through their provocative or ill-concieved statements;

-    For the Armed Forces of the Philippines to exercise prudence and abide by the provisions of the ceasefire mechanisms in operating against those accused of perpetrating the recent killings of soldiers and civilians;

-    For the MILF to police its ranks to rein its restive members and to exercise its influence over other armed groups to prevent them from initiating further acts of violence that could further imperil the peace process;

-    For the media to report responsibly, objectively, accurately on incidents and developments about the crisis such as to help resolve it at the sooner time and hasten peace-making in Mindanao;

-    For LGUs and lead government agencies particularly in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao to exercise good governance and deliver on their duty to provide basic services to the people and thus preserve their security;

-    For civil society particularly those in Mindanao, including the international community, to intensify all efforts in peace-building, to continue to contribute ideas helpful to the peace talks, to strengthen active interfaith collaboration and activities as a strategic means to peace-making, and to help government sustain basic services to the people;

-    For the social and economic elite of the nation to actively and unequivocably support the search for peace in Mindanao – what’s good for Mindanao is good for the nation;

-    And, for the negotiating panels of the government and MILF to pursue with more vigor and determination the quest for a speedy resolution of the Mindanao Question through a high sense of statesmanship, integrity and pragmatism.

As we say again:  Peace is the only option.




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